You Can be Friends with Your Children

By Samantha McKenzie

Shakeel Divine Hargrove was born on May 5, 1993. He’s my oldest child and only son. Today as he turns 24, I wanted to introduce him as not only my child, but as one of my best friends. I’ve heard people warn you about being friends with your children. I knew what they meant. We’ve seen parents so chummy with their kids they forget to guide them or discipline them when it’s most needed. It’s an ugly scene.

Shakeel was my first, so I guess it’s fair to say he was more like a test dummy. I learned how to be a parent from practicing on him. He was like any other boy child. He endured many bumps and bruises and went full steam ahead after the things he wanted.

As he matured through the years, he took on the role of the only “man” in the house very seriously. He was a protector. And no matter how much I tried to relieve him of this duty, he would have it no other way.

He’s the kind of young man that considers other people in his decisions and yet he won’t let anyone drag him down.

He’s that guy who listens to his sixth sense (which has saved him on many of days) and believes in the power of prayer.

He’ll seek my advice on major life decisions and will tell me when he disagrees. He’s always been smart enough to ask, but not foolish to accept advice that doesn’t align with his own personal constitution.

We became friends gradually. It may have started when he went off to college. When I noticed that he was actually using the tools we had given him and applying the right amount of wisdom to his good decisions and his bad ones. We had to learn how to trust each other. How to listen to what the other person is saying, and still pay close attention to what they’re not saying.

I think our friendship evolved from mutual love, but grew out of the respect we had for one another. We talk about everything…and have lived through some tough topics to say the least. We challenge each other to be better. Together, we support our collective dreams and we make sure there’s something to laugh about every day (or joke about… either way).

He introduced me to LeBron James and basketball. I couldn’t make him a NY Giants fan, but I managed to teach him a few other life skills. He teaches me about the world of finances and keeps us focused on building our wealth. I taught him to believe in the unseen, to push past your fears and to love deeply. We both have a spirit of giving back. And we’re both equally stubborn and ambitious. He’s my friend who has a heart of gold.

When the parenting duties start to fade away (as they should), and you realize that you have a child who has matured into a great young man or woman, open up the next chapter and learn to be a friend. It’s the second phase of parenting.

Happy birthday to you Shakeel. May your heart get its most deepest desires and your infectious smile be a joyful reminder to the rest of us that life is to be lived. And as always, may the Cavs win the championship.

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